Wilkinson, Wilkerson,...or Clodhopper?
The wife of William Darwin (1707-1786),
of Louisa County VA, is almost universally given by other researchers as Jane
Wilkerson or Jane Wilkinson, and the claim appears to
have been advanced for at least a generation. We have, in turn, presented the
name herein -- but we do so with a question mark against it.
We have not been able to identify the
earliest occurence of this claim, but more
significantly, we have never been able to identify a primary source to indicate
Jane's maiden name, and thus do not regard the claim as well-founded. Moreover,
there are some specific grounds for rejecting it.
To review: we know, both from the 1746 Hardy-Darwin Land Indenture
and from William's 1785 Will, that his wife's given name was indeed Jane
(rendered, in the first document referenced here, as "Jean"). But no
18th century document from Virginia states Jane's maiden name, nor any known document from the 19th century (including the authoritative
Darwin/Bland "Bible" of circa 1837).
Our presumption had long been that, although
no primary source for it was known, both the persistence and consistency of the
"Wilkerson/Wilkinson" claim argued that such a source must have
existed (though possibly since lost) and been known to earlier researchers. And
our hope has been, that this source may someday
resurface and validate the claim.
But our doubts here have come to outweigh our
hope, for two principal reasons.
First, it is difficult to conceive of a
primary source which would have yielded Jane's maiden name without also giving
up some other genealogical information one would expect to have also persisted
in the records of earlier researchers. The three most common sources for maiden
- Marriage Records :
generally church records designating, say, "marriage of John Smith
and Mary, daughter of William Brown"
- Wills of Other Family Members : generally in the form of, "I, William
Brown, do bequeath to my daughter, Mary Smith..."
- Bible Records : generally in a form
similar to marriage records, specifically providing parentage of females
marrying into the family
Had the source for the "Wilkinson/Wilkerson"
claim been such an item, then it is curious that no other information is
associated with it: a marriage record also gives a place, a will or Bible can
give the names other family members, but these are lacking here.
Second: in establishing the provenance of the
Darwin/Bland "Bible", it is striking that the surnames
"Wilkerson" and "Wilkinson" appear in the likely line of
transmission. The document unquestionably originates in the household of
William Darwin's son John Darwin 2.8, and is specifically associated with
John's daughter Pamela (Darwin) Summerford 3.38;
so much, however, may not have been apparant to
earlier researchers, some of whom may have mistaken the document as
contemporary with William Darwin in the 1740's rather than originating from a
later generation in the 1830's.
Although the precise transmission of this
document from Pamela (Darwin) Summerford is not
known, it seems significant to us that one of her granddaughters, Mary Darwin Summerford (1893-1989), married one James Walter Wilkerson
(1884-1955) and resided her entire life at Hickory Grove. We do not at present
know, but strongly suspect, this is the same Wilkerson family as the 'Jean
Wilkerson' said to have owned the original document in the 1960's (the
document is sometimes referenced as the Jean Wilkerson Bible.
So much would appear to give us a clear line
of transmission from John Darwin to the present day, but additionally suggests
to us the possibility that an earlier researcher, not knowing the actual
provenance of a document called the Jean Wilkerson Bible and
additionally being familiar with the 1746 Hardy - Darwin Land Indenture
(wherein William Darwin's wife is recorded as Jean) may have made
the simple assumption that Jean Wilkerson was the name of William
Additionally, some further confusion may
possibly have been introduced by the problematical document known as the 1880 Mary Hope Darwin "Bible" Record.
This is in part derived from the earlier Darwin/Bland "Bible" record,
apparently to further an application for D.A.R. membership. It originates with Mary (Darwin) Hope,
daughter of Peyton B. Darwin and Jerusha
James; Peyton B. Darwin's first wife, who is listed in this later record, was Mary
We are, of course, speculating here about
possible ways in which the names Wilkinson/Wilkerson might have been
associated in error with the maiden name of William Darwin's wife Jane. But in
the continuing absence of any original document indicating her maiden name, our
confidence in the 'Wilkinson/Wilkerson' claim remains low.